Still silly

Here’s “Grace O’Malley” as she stands, this time with a proper virtual piano. I’m sick of her. I may return to this catastrophe later and do some severe pruning and rewriting, but right now I just want to work on something — anything — else.

Intricate noise

I’ve been amusing myself the past few days by running MIDI files of Bach’s Art of Fugue through a variety of soft synths. This one, I think, is the sixth “contrapunctus” (the MIDI files are confusingly labeled), realized with four instances of the AAS Chromaphone.

Checking in

Use the force ...

Life is busier than usual right now, and it will be a week or two before I have time for a proper post. Until then, here are a few odds and ends.

• The true and proper words to the traditional Christmas carol:

Boston Charlie

• Some more silly stuff I’ve come across recently:

Flute season

Great ...

• If Kyousougiga ends well as well as it began, it likely will be the second-best show of 2013 (I don’t expect any current series to top the second half of Shin Sekai Yori). Here’s a tune from the OST that illustrates one aspect of the show. If Carl Stalling wrote anime music, it might sound something like this:

Kill la Kill is currently in the middle of a tournament arc. Once that’s resolved, I expect that the show will shift gears, and then we’ll see just how good it really is.

Arpeggio of Blue Steel, when it isn’t annoyingly silly, has been a surprisingly good series. Ubu has more to say about it. See Jusuchin for episode-by-episode discussions, with plentiful spoilers.

• Despite my better judgement, I’m still watching I couldn’t, so, etc. The creators can’t decide whether it’s a comedy, a fanservice vehicle, an action story or a romance; too often, it’s none of the above. Still, it’s just interesting enough that I want to see what happens. I wish Fino were in a better show with better writers.

• Today’s quote:

History is satire, and histories that are simply serious are simply false.

Continue reading “Checking in”

The other singing nun

Fire

Something I came across this morning: Christian “popular” music that isn’t embarrassing. ((Although there are many good musicians who are seriously religious, the only one marketed as a “Christian” performer whom I enjoy listening to is Phil Keaggy, a superb guitarist and pretty good singer and songwriter.)) In 1976, Sister Irene O’Connor, a Franciscan nun in Australia, recorded the album Fire of God’s Love, playing every instrument and singing every vocal part. It wasn’t exactly a runaway hit in its day, and the vinyl now is a fabulous rarity. Here’s the reverb-drenched “Fire (Luke 12:49)” from the album:

Far more listenable than anything the St. Louis Jesuits and their ilk ever produced (faint praise, yes). You can listen to two more tracks here, but apparently that’s all there is of the album that’s online.

Sister O’Connor is still around and making music. There’s an interview with her here, and she has a facebook page.

Strings attached

Virginia Margheim Musser, Howard Rains, Roger Netherton, Tricia Spencer and Tommy Jordan.
Virginia Margheim Musser, Howard Rains, Roger Netherton, Tricia Spencer and Tommy Jordan.

I’ve posted the best of my Winfield pictures at my Flickr site. The photo above is of the old-time band that supplied music for Saturday evening’s contra dance. Roger, the fiddler on the left tapping his foot double-time, took home yet another violin in the old-time fiddle competition earlier that evening. ((You can listen to his performances here.)) Here’s the band late in the dance:

Here’s a panorama from early in the dance.

Update: Here’s a complete dance:

Home again, tired and irritable

Fingers and thumb

Winfield was good, and it’s going to take me another day or two to fully recover. I was hoping to get to bed early tonight, but the people who run the hair salon across the alley decided to throw a street party, complete with an obnoxious funky band. Bleah.

I hope to have the pictures and recordings edited later this week. Until then, here’s Shohei Toyoda, who placed third in the fingerpicking competition this year.

Today’s mystery

[ASFS] Kimi no Shiranai Monogatari – (Bakemonogatari ED) from jacklong on Vimeo.

Why is “Kimi no Shiranai Monogatari” the top seed in the Anime Music Tournament? It’s not bad; the arrangement is solid, if a bit overwrought, and the recording demonstrates that Ryo can work with real singers as well as Hatsune Miku. It may well be one of the better songs in the tournament. But I don’t hear anything remarkable in it. I’ve listened to it several times, and as soon as it ends, I can’t remember a single phrase well enough to hum.

I’ve gone through all the tournament entries now, and what I said earlier stands. (I’ll admit that I didn’t listen to each and every one all the way through. Sometimes, if a song didn’t catch my interest after the first verse and refrain, I skipped to the middle to see if there were any surprises there. There weren’t.)

A few further notes:

1. Radiohead? Really? Gah. At least Yes is worth listening to. Radiohead is allegedly brilliant, but whiny twit Thom spoils everything they do.

2. The more homogenized, pasteurized pap I hear, the more I appreciate forthright rock ‘n’ roll like “Ride on Shooting Star.”

3. Evidently Ali Project is out of favor these days. I expected at least “Coppelia no Hitsugi” to make the cut.

4. While the majority of the nominees were new to me, most of the ones I judged to be good I was already familiar with. I did find a few songs worth adding to my playlists, though. “Forces” sounds like Karkador-era P-Model — no surprise, since it’s by Susumu Hirasawa. I might have to track down the Berserk soundtrack. “Hanaji” has a pleasantly trashy psychobilly feel, and “Shoujo S” (which reminds me of The Monkees for some reason) rocks nicely.

5. Curiously, the opening and ending themes for The Tatami Galaxy sound better separated from the animation. The wispy vocals in the latter song, “Kami-sama no lu Toori,” are peculiarly effective combined with the spooky synths.

Bach times 377

Amazon.com is currently offering the complete harpsichord works of Bach, performed by Martin Galling, for 99 cents. This includes both books of the Well-Tempered Clavier, the partitas and French and English suites, and much else. Even if the recordings are not to your taste, you’re only risking a dollar for fifteen hours of music.

The performances, to my non-expert ears, are acceptable but not outstanding. Here’s Galling’s rendition of the Prelude and Fugue in C minor from the first book:


Compare it to Malcolm Hamilton’s


and Takahiro Sonoda’s


Galling is a plodder. I’m being unfair — he usually picks better tempos than he does in that prelude — but there is a reason why he is seldom mentioned in the same breath as Glenn Gould and Wanda Landowska. Still, Galling generally does play Bach well enough to give pleasure, and the set is a good deal. You can indeed find better recordings of Bach, but they’ll cost you much more than one dollar.

For the heck of it, I found MIDI files of the prelude and fugue and ran them through a synthesized harpsichord on my computer:

Musical interlude

Just a few music videos that caught my ear recently.

Tim and Myles Thompson will be at Winfield this year.

Probably as painless an introduction to twelve-tone music as you’ll ever find. I’m less enthused by the philosophy, though — Josh calls it “rank nominalism.”

I experimented with some highly-simplified twelve tone techniques some years back. The results were not pretty. For the morbidly curious, “Twelve Toes” was probably the least unsuccessful.

Free noisemakers

My old computer died last month. The hard drives are intact, so I didn’t lose any files. However, several frequently-used applications will not run on my middle-aged laptop, some because of technical incompatibilities, some because of tyrannical DRM. I spent a little time recently searching for freeware to substitute for missing soft synths, and I found a few.

Spicy Guitar

Spicy Guitar is a pretty good physically-modeled acoustic guitar. In a mix with with a pinch of reverb, it can pass for the real thing, and it’s a lot cheaper than the AAS Strum Acoustic.

Continue reading “Free noisemakers”

8,979 shows too many

I recently discovered that the Internet Archive contains over 100,000 live concerts that you can download, free and legally. Most of the performers I haven’t heard of, but there are quite a few of note. Acts represented include Bela Fleck and the Flecktones, Brave Combo, Hot Club of Cowtown, as well as my recent enthusiasms Estradasphere and Secret Chiefs 3. There are also 8,980 Grateful Dead concerts. The archive also gives me a chance to sample bands who were previously just names to me, such as bluegrass eccentrics Split Lip Rayfield and Bad Livers, and just plain eccentrics like Hypnotic Clambake. The recording quality varies; most concerts I’ve listened to sound like good bootlegs.

Let’s all do the “Bulgarian Boogie.”

[audio:http://archive.org/download/hcb1995-10-21.flac16/hcb1995-10-21d2t03_vbr.mp3]

Now let’s do the “Hokey Pokey.”

[audio:http://archive.org/download/bravecombo2008-04-27.sp-cmc1.flac24/bravecombo2008-04-27t27_vbr.mp3]

Fish music

Roger Netherton, a young friend of mine, placed second this year in the old-time fiddle contest at Winfield Friday. He celebrated by heading over to Carp Camp, where he led the assembled eccentrics in a couple of tunes. Here’s the first. It starts off with Roger alone.

[audio:http://tancos.net/audio/Carp1-2012.mp3]

There are more pictures of carp people below the fold.

Continue reading “Fish music”

Fireworks

My father was a clarinetist in his college marching band. He frequently played recordings of band music at home while I was young, with the result that I grew up allergic to John Philip Sousa. Over the years I’ve acquired some tolerance to the genre — though I’ll never be a fan — enough so that I can enjoy stunts like these.

(Several hotshot young pianists play Horowitz’s transcription on Youtube, if you want to hear it with better sound. To my ears, Volodos is the least unsatisfactory. If you want to understand why it is so difficult to take Lang Lang seriously, this will make it painfully clear.)

*****

I’m sure it’s purely coincidental, but it amuses me that the best-known of all mahou shoujo is clad in red, white and blue.

Just incredible math

Miscellaneous musical notes:

My financial situation has improved from desperate to merely uncomfortable, and I’ve been able to finally make a few purchases that I’ve had in mind for years. For instance, I now have a grand piano. More precisely, I have a mathematical model of a grand piano in my laptop, Modartt’s Pianoteq. It’s no substitute for the real thing, of course, but I don’t have the space for a full-size grand, let alone the cash. Pianoteq sounds pretty good, and it’s much more “alive” than any sample-based instrument I’ve played. Add a pinch of reverb, and it would take a very sensitive ear to tell that it’s not an actual physical piano in a recording. If you have a velocity-sensitive MIDI keyboard handy, download the demo and try it yourself.

Because it’s not based on samples, the software requires surprisingly little disc space. Pianoteq is only 20 megabytes large. In comparison, Synthology’s Ivory II Italian Grand takes 28 gigabytes, and EastWest’s Bösendorfer gobbles 87. (They also need 7200 RPM disc drives, which means they won’t run on my humble laptop, where I need them. ((On top of that, they both require you to by an “iLok” key, a goddam miserable expletive-deleted dongle, and that is a deal-killer. (Q. What is the purpose of digital rights management? A. To punish the legitimate user.) I daresay that these are wonderful instruments, but I ain’t touching them.))) Physical-modeling synths such as Pianoteq do make heavy demands on the processor, but my laptop handles the load easily.

*****

I’ve been considering finally buying one of the major notation packages, either Finale or Sibelius. I don’t need the full, all-the-bells-and-whistles versions, which is fortunate, because I don’t have the funds. However, the affordable intermediate version of each can be installed on only one computer, which is inconvenient. I think I’ll see how well MuseScore works.

*****

I see that Bakumatsu Kikansetsu Irohanihoheto (did I spell that correctly? Yes) has been licensed. I’m a little surprised. Although I enjoyed the first several episodes, I never did finish watching it, and I don’t recall that it was exceptionally good or particularly popular.

However, it does feature a good Yuki Kajiura opening song.

*****

Josh, who prefers J.K. Rowling to Margaret Atwood, finds echoes of Kierkegaard in Talking Heads.

Politics, grammar and velcro

A few recently-spotted items worth quoting:

Being politically correct does not trump being grammatically correct…please fix.

Dr. J’s Gothic Literature teacher

But these days the wages of sin is boredom.

Res Studiorum et Ludorum

Well, I could argue that a proper understanding of punk and its inherent rebellion would have everyone becoming a libertarian or principled conservative …

Mollie Hemingway (in the comments)

The last is from a thread about the “Weirdest Band You Love.” It’s hard to pick the strangest of my many musical enthusiasms, but the Sons of Rayon might be the most obscure. The inventors of velco tap dancing (fiddler/guitarist Kelly Werts glued velcro hooks on the soles and heels of his shoes and danced on a patch of tightly-woven carpet, which was miced, creating sound when his feet left the platform), the Bill Monroe-meets-Robert Fripp trio was active in Wichita for several years around 1980. They released one cassette, No Velcro, which was one of the first items I digitized when I hooked up my computer to the stereo. Here is perhaps their loveliest song, written and sung by banjoist Paul Elwood and featuring Intergalactic Yodeling Champion Randy Erwin, “UFOs Over New Zealand.”

[audio:http://tancos.net/audio/UFOs Over New Zealand.mp3]

Continue reading “Politics, grammar and velcro”